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U.S. report

Veterans Affairs halts spending on 188 healthcare IT projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Veterans Affairs Department, which runs an extensive system of hospitals and clinics, has suspended work on 188 of 280 health information technology programs.

It’s the second round of program suspensions, re-evaluations, restarts and terminations under the VA’s Program Management Accountability System. The first round started in July 2009 and resulted in the suspension of 45 projects. Currently, only 92 IT projects, or about a third of the total at the VA, are authorized to keep spending funds.

As a result of the new suspensions, the VA anticipates “substantially more” savings in its IT budget this year than the $54 million in savings announced earlier, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said. He did not provide a current estimate of the savings.

The new figures represent an expansion of the VA’s Program Management Accountability System that Baker started with the 45 troubled IT projects. In February, all 280 IT projects in the department were placed under the system.

On Feb. 24, Baker announced a savings of $54 million as a result of terminating 12 failed IT projects of the initial group of 45 suspended projects.

He also said that 32 projects had been restarted and one was still under suspension.

In statements on April 19 and 21, Baker updated the status of all 280 IT projects at the department. As of April 20, 92 IT projects are “active” and able to spend down their budgets, 93 are “in planning,” 53 are “not started,” 21 are “closed,” and 21 are “other,” Baker wrote in an e-mail message.

The 21 projects designated as closed represent projects that have been either terminated or completed.

“It is clear we are not spending a lot of money right now,” Baker said in an interview. “We are being very tight on which projects we are starting to work on.”

The 93 projects listed as “in planning” are undergoing re-evaluations and reconfigurations. Most are likely to be restarted once the re-planning is completed. “We are restarting projects all the time,” Baker said. “I am in no hurry to spend the money until I know it can be spent productively.”

VA officials also previously announced that the department expects to save $37 million this year by stopping work on a portion of the Replacement Scheduling Application Development program. That program represents about two-thirds of the $54 million in previously announced savings. Officials also said the scheduling program might be restarted.

Posted May 6, 2010

 

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